Oral health is an important part of the general health, for a pregnant woman, it becomes even more important. Pregnancy is a special and momentous event in a woman’s life. Even completely normal pregnancies are accompanied by transient changes in the metabolism and a surge in the hormones which can result in noticeable changes in the oral health of pregnant women.
Pregnant women and those planning for pregnancy, require additional dental check-ups and oral health monitoring. Some studies show that low birth weight and preterm birth may be associated with certain oral conditions. Healthy pregnant woman should not be denied dental treatments solely for being pregnant.
Dental Care in Pregnancy
According to Dr. Ellie Nadian, a Dentist in Brisbane, when you are pregnant, you should continue maintaining good oral hygiene with additional care. You should use toothbrush with soft bristles, floss daily and visit your dentist regularly for oral health monitoring. If you are experiencing recurrent vomiting, you should avoid brushing immediately after vomiting and rinse your mouth with a tea spoon of baking soda dissolved in a cup of water to protect your teeth, especially the front ones, against acidic erosions that can lead to tooth sensitivity, dental caries and tooth abscess.
At any stage of the pregnancy, you can consult with your dentist to promote your oral health. Generally, scaling, polishing and root planning (for people with gum disease) are safe during any stage of the pregnancy. Consult with your dentist to see if you can benefit from these and preserve your oral health during pregnancy. Poor oral health can affect the health of the fetus and possibly the outcome of the pregnancy.
Common Dental Problems in Pregnancy
Dental problems that a pregnant woman faces should be prevented or managed in consultation with a professional dentist. Dental treatment of pregnant patients requires special care and proper treatments should not be withheld when recommended by a professional dentist. Below are some common changes that pregnancy might bring about in the oral cavity.
Protecting your Teeth against Pregnancy Vomiting
After vomiting, the acid in the mouth can de-mineralize the enamel of the tooth. The enamel is a thin but hard protective layer on the surface of the tooth. In acidic environment, the enamel becomes vulnerable and brushing can damage the tooth enamel even further. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can neutralise the acid. Rinse your mouth with a tea spoon of baking soda dissolved in a glass of water. Tooth enamel acts like a protective layer on the tooth surface. When the enamel is damaged, the dentine becomes exposed to the mouth environment and the tooth may be come sensitive to temperature variations, etc.
Pregnant woman should limit sugary food consumption. Use dental floss, brush teeth after meals using soft bristle brushes, use fluoridated tooth paste and use fluoridated mouth rinses to control demineralization of the enamel due to recurrent vomiting.
Immediately after vomiting:
• Do not brush your teeth.
• Rinse using baking soda and water.
Consult with your dentist to see if fluoride application is beneficial for protecting any eroded enamel or if you have a sensitive tooth.
Tooth Caries During Pregnancy
Pregnant women are more prone to dental caries because of upturn acidic environment in the mouth due to repeated vomiting and possibly limited attention to oral health. Pregnant women tend to experience dietary change and cravings for sugary diet. When dietary carbohydrate is fermented by the bacteria present in the oral cavity, additional acid is produced that attacks the tooth enamel, and if not managed, can cause tooth decay and ultimately tooth infection and dental abscess.
Dental X-Rays During Pregnancy
While some studies suggest links exist between radiation exposure to the thyroid during pregnancy and low birth weight, according to ADA, with protective thyroid collars, dental x-rays are safe to take. Pregnant patients who require dental x-rays should be provided with a thyroid collar and a lead apron. Other control measures are use of high-speed films or using x-ray machine types that allows the dentist to control and limit patient exposure to radiation and record the dosage. Modern x-ray machines can optimise the amount of x-ray radiation. Some machines have sensors that detect sufficient dose and signal the x-ray generator to stop radiation emissions.
If you are concerned about radiation, visit a dentist that uses modern technology and equipment. Make sure that you notify the dental nurses and the dentist that you are pregnant. Ideally, make a note of your pregnancy in your medical history forms so that they can provide you with protective x-ray shields.
Pregnancy tumour is a benign mushroom-like growth during pregnancy that often occurs at the at the margin of the gums. It often resolves without intervention after the delivery of the baby. Pregnancy tumour can bleed upon minor local trauma, or irritation e.g. hard tooth-brushing. The occurrence of pregnancy tumour is most common during the second trimester.
Pregnancy Tumour is an inflammatory reaction to bacterial plaque. Pregnancy hormones cause the gums to exaggerate reaction to dental plaque. Plaque is sticky and can cause local irritation and the inflammatory response to the irritation can result in a pregnancy tumour. Good Oral Hygiene and professional cleaning by a dentist can reduce the risk and can prevent the development of the pregnancy tumours. If you are already experiencing the tumour, consult with your dentist specially if the bleeding from the pregnancy tumour is extreme, causes discomfort or you have difficulties in eating or speech due to the size or location of the pregnancy tumour.
Bleeding tender gums (gingivitis) is common in pregnancy. It is caused by changes in oral flora, changes in hormones and a reduction in the immune system response of the pregnant woman. Poor oral hygiene and formation of plaque can irritate gums. If the plaque is not removed it hardens and forms tartar. Tartar increases the risk of gingivitis (gum disease). A diseased gum is red, swollen, tender and is likely to bleed. Gingivitis is common during pregnancy and can start in the first trimester. Often begins from the second month. Because it is common in pregnancy, it is also called pregnancy gingivitis.
For some women, gingivitis exists before the pregnancy and due to pregnancy hormones, gingivitis worsens during pregnancy period. If you are planning for pregnancy, you should treat your gingivitis prior to pregnancy. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis. Periodontitis is a more serious form of gum disease.
Oral health maintenance can prevent gingivitis. Rinsing the mouth with salt water, daily flossing and brushing after meals using fluoridated tooth paste is beneficial. Professional scale and clean in a dental chair is also advisable and recommended.
It is an increase in the size of the gum tissue. Gingiva is the medical term for the gums. Gingival overgrowth is the increase in the size of gum tissue around the neck of the teeth. It bleeds easily and can be caused by poor oral hygiene. Dental Braces, hormonal imbalance, medication and leukaemia can also induce gingival overgrowth.
When you go to visit your dentist, notify them about the medications you are using because some medications can affect your gums. If the medication is the cause, you need to consult with your doctor.
If you find gum overgrowth in your mouth, consult with your dentist because overgrowth of the gums makes maintaining good oral hygiene difficult and increase the inflammations in the gums that can lead to gingival overgrowth.
Oral health of the mother potentially reduces complications during pregnancy. Oral health of the mother also reduces the risks of oral issues in her child. Pregnant woman should receive specific information about the importance of oral hygiene before and during pregnancy. If you are facing oral health issues, ensure you consult with a professional dentist so that it can be managed or treated in the correct period of gestation.
Oral health assessment and dental care by a professional dentist is recommended prior to, during and after pregnancy. Read more about dental care during pregnancy here.
About the Author
Dr. Ellie Nadian, Pure Dentistry
11/1932-1974 Logan Rd, Upper Mt Gravatt, QLD 4122
Tel: (07) 3343 4869